Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Woman Crush Wednesday: Gerty Cori

From Molecules to Organisms: Flow of Energy

Mariah Warren, Shayna Pond, Brittany Bowens, Laura Halstied | Published: March 15th, 2023 by K20 Center


In this lesson, students will explore the impact female scientists have had on what we know about respiration. Aerobic respiration should be taught before doing this lesson. Students will discover the impact Gerty Cori has had on our understanding of respiration. Students will determine how the alternative pathway cells perform respiration under environmental conditions that lack oxygen. Students will evaluate the impact that the environment can have on the rate of respiration.

Essential Question(s)

How have female scientists shaped science today? What happens to our bodies when our cells do not receive an adequate amount of oxygen?



Students read several pages about Gerty Cori from the book Women in Science.


Students explore what it feels like when muscles switch to anaerobic respiration.


Students participate in an interactive discussion on aerobic and anaerobic respiration.


Students complete a yeast lab connected to anaerobic respiration.


Students summarize, compare, contrast, and evaluate respiration effects due to hormones.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World Book by Rachel Ignotofsky (excerpt attached, one per person)

  • How I Know It handout (attached, one per person)

  • Can You Handle It handout (attached, one per person)

  • Interactive Questionnaire handout (attached, one per person)

  • Interactive Answer Key (attached)

  • Yeast Lab Instructions handout (attached, one per person/group)

  • Yeast Lab Answer Key (attached)

  • R.E.R.U.N. handout (attached, one per person)

  • 30-Second Expert handout (attached, one per person)

  • Career Card Sort (one per group, attached)

  • Career Card Sort Solution (attached)

  • Career Reflection handout (attached, one per student)

  • Balloons (four per group)

  • Bottle (one per group)

  • Yeast (one per group)

  • Flask or plastic/glass soda bottle (16 oz. or smaller) (four per group)

  • Funnel

  • Packets of yeast (four/9 teaspoons per group)

  • Bag of Sugar (6 teaspoons per group)

  • Warm water (4 cups per group)

  • 4 small balloons

  • Student device with internet access (one per group)

  • Butcher paper/easel pad paper (one per group)

  • Markers


15 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Begin with slide 3. Briefly read aloud the essential questions: How have female scientists shaped science today? What happens to our bodies when our cells do not receive an adequate amount of oxygen? Then, move to slide 4 and read the lesson objectives.

Move to slide 5. Invite students to read the Gerty Cori pages (attachment, pg. 46-47) from the book Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky. After they have read the excerpt, ask students to identify the area of biology in which Gery Cori did her research.

Introduce student to the How I Know It strategy and pass out the attached How I Know It handout to each student. Invite students to write what they already know about the purpose and process of cellular respiration. Have students share out a few of their points. Next, inform students that they will get to explore the contributions further that Gerty Cori has given us in order to understand alternative pathways for cellular respiration.


30 Minute(s)

Pass out the attached Can You Handle It? handout. Go to slide 6. Instruct students to line up against the wall for a competition. Instruct them to do a wall sit for as long as they can. Their backs should be flat against the wall and their knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Students can stand up whenever they feel their muscles are tired. While they are doing this, ask them what their muscles feel like. Once all the students feel their muscles getting a little shaky, you can have them all sit. Have the students write down what they experienced on Question Number 1 (not sharing responses yet).

Next, while students are in their seats, provide each student with a clothes pin and complete the steps in the Can You Handle It handout.

Have students answer the remaining analysis questions and discuss what they noticed.


30 Minute(s)

Move to slide 7. Pose the following questions to the students:

  • Describe moments where you have experienced this kind of pain/fatigue in your muscles.

  • What do you typically do to relieve that kind of pain/fatigue?

  • Why do you think this is happening?

Pass out the attached Interactive Questionnaire handout. Move to slide 8. Inform students that we will revisit Gerty Cori who, with her husband, discovered the cause of this experience we may feel from our muscles. Pair students up and invite them to participate in the Gerty Cori Respiration Interactive. Have students answer the questions on their Gerty Cori Interactive handout.


30 Minute(s)

Gather the supplies for the lab. Move to slide 9 and pass out the attached Yeast Lab Instructions handout. As students complete the lab, have them collect the data and answer the analysis questions. After completion of the lab, have students complete the R.E.R.U.N. strategy by writing up a lab using the R.E.R.U.N rubric. Be sure to go over the instructions and rubric to make sure students know what is expected of them.


15 Minute(s)

Move to slide 12. Using what they now know about aerobic and anaerobic respiration, invite students to complete the 30-Second Expert strategy. Pass out the attached 30-Second Expert handout and have students complete the T-Chart. Partner the students and have them choose between the hormones: insulin and epinephrine/adrenaline. Students will complete on the left side of the T-chart with what they understand about how the hormone affects respiration. Students will share and jot down their partner’s comments on the right side of the T-Chart and then create a collective summary of hormone’s effects on respiration. If time permits, have each pair share out their understandings.